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Let’s use road funds on roads

opinion-WEB

Year after year, one of the easiest ways for the Legislature and governor to find millions of dollars to plug holes in the state budget is to raid the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF).

Upwards of $100 million sometimes gets taken from the gas-tax supplied fund to pay for the state highway patrol. One budget sentence and the move is done.

Ken Strobeck

Ken Strobeck

Everyone pats themselves on the back for balancing the budget without raising taxes.

The ink is barely dry on the budget when residents of our 91 cities and towns and 15 counties register their complaints with local officials about streets and roads showing signs of age, inadequate maintenance and disrepair.

The cost becomes painfully obvious in the amount of car repairs, the increase in bumpy rides and hazardous conditions.

After hearing from our constituents and drivers across the state, municipal leaders and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns joined with other advocates to declare it was time to end this annual shift and show lawmakers the impacts of sweeping tens of millions of dollars away from road repair.

We understand that Arizona budget writers must juggle many priorities, but the league never lets legislators forget that keeping all our streets and roadways safe and open to traffic ranks near the top of that list.

Taking to the Capitol, mayors, councilmen and our constituents began telling that story. And thankfully, that persistence paid off last year and the Legislature demanded a restoration of $30 million back into HURF and added another $30 million for a road loan program to expedite construction projects.

ADOT has also stepped up and worked with local communities to do away with excessive regulations and red tape, and is working to restore the HURF exchange program that will mobilize federal funds for some local projects.

It’s often said there’s no natural constituency for infrastructure. But that is changing, especially in Arizona where we understand how crucial international trade is to the economic development of our state. Arizona drivers expect fuel taxes to be re-invested in streets and roads.

We appreciate the Arizona Capitol Times recognizing our work to protect and promote state and local transportation and infrastructure spending. Convincing the Legislature to return $30 million of the HURF sweep was an important first step. Now, Gov. Doug Ducey is repeating it in his 2018-19 budget and the cities appreciate that move.

The state of Arizona came of age at a time when automobiles and the interstate system began to rule America. As the sixth largest geographic state in the U.S., our highway infrastructure is critical to connect us in-state, inter-state and internationally. Maintaining local streets, roads and traffic control systems is the responsibility of cities and counties, who do the lion’s share of work when it comes to fixing potholes and ensuring streets remain navigable.

For the 2018 session, you can rest assured the league and its 91 cities are committed to telling our story to make sure HURF is used for its intended purpose: building and maintaining Arizona’s essential street, road and highway system.

— Ken Strobeck is executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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